Consuming cannabis during pregnancy is highly controversial. The effects of THC and other cannabinoids on the fetus are still uncertain, while 420-friendly mothers must make the choice either to treat nausea and other symptoms of pregnancy without cannabis, or to consume a little weed in hopes that there will be no consequences on the baby.
The controversy over a new mother’s cannabis consumption doesn’t end when the child is born, however. If she experiences postpartum depression, cannabis can be a useful tool in treating it — but if she breastfeeds her baby, she’ll need to consider that the child may also reap the effects of THC through her milk.
Between 10 and 20 percent of new mothers experience postpartum depression every year, while a whopping 70 to 80 percent experience the “baby blues.” After delivery, a mother may feel weepy, moody, or melancholy for a short period of time as she adjusts to a new sleep schedule, lack of time alone, and the stress of caring for an infant. This is called the “baby blues.” While postpartum depression is similar, it lasts longer and is felt more intensely.
Mothers are under societal pressure to feel happy and relieved to deliver a baby, but at the same time, they’ll experiencing massive hormonal shifts, as estrogen and progesterone levels spike during pregnancy and plummet immediately after.
While triggered by a specific event, postpartum depression is nonetheless a form of clinical depression. It is a biochemical response to the challenge of adjusting to a new life circumstance and the changes in your body.
Cannabis is a well recognized treatment for depression of any kind, but it might be especially useful for postpartum depression. Because cannabis has a biphasic effect, you may respond in opposite ways to low doses and high doses. One study found that a little bit of THC can be a powerful antidepressant, while a lot of THC might actually increase depressive symptoms. Of course, what constitutes a “high” dose versus a “low” dose is highly dependent on an individual’s tolerance and relationship to the cannabis plant, as well as on the strain they’re consuming.
Many people rely on cannabis as means of balancing their endocannabinoid system, and the functions associated with it like sleep, mood, appetite, and pain. When your body feels out of whack after pregnancy, cannabis can help it recover a sense balance and normalcy.
But some mothers may worry about exposing their babies (and their developing brains) to the psychoactive effects of THC. That’s where high-CBD or CBD-only products can be helpful. While there’s little research that looks at the effects of CBD on nursing mothers and babies, CBD is a known antidepressant, especially if you take it everyday as you would a multivitamin. CBD blocks the enzyme FAAH, which breaks down the body’s own supply of the endocannabinoid anandamide, otherwise known as the “bliss molecule.” That means more anandamide in your system, and hence, a boost of bliss and happiness.
It’s a toss up, however, how the baby will respond. We just can’t say with any confidence one way or the other whether cannabis (CBD, THC, or other cannabinoids) are okay for a baby to consume through breast milk. One study, for instance, found that an excess of anandamide in the mother’s milk lead to weight problems later on for the child. Meanwhile, another study found that depressive symptoms correlated with lower levels of endocannabinoids. Restoring the endocannabinoid system back to normal also means the chemicals in a mother’s breast milk are in balance. Then, there’s the added risk of opting for a pharmaceutical antidepressant instead of cannabis.
The way a mother treats postpartum depression is a personal decision, but regardless her mood and the imbalances in her body (whether stress and depressive hormones, THC, antidepressants, and so forth) could have an effect on the baby.